I’d browsed the internet and tried to book a ticket in advance to Frankfurt from Berlin, but the prices were the same both in station and online. It was getting late, however, and the in-station office had closed. There were 3 options I didn’t understand for each of the main train stations. Different tickets, meant a $20 difference in price, but they all looked to go to a subset of the main station. A bit confused, resolved that the price wasn’t going to change, and ready to move on I awoke the next morning, left the hostel and headed to the main train station, where I could talk to an associate. I had her look up the cheapest ticket (still not cheap enough) for the trip and booked it. The train left about 40 minutes later with an hour and a half layover in Hannover. The trainride in total was about 6 hours and not overly uncomfortable. The beautiful thing about traveling by train is that you see open countryside, whereas the autobahn etc. typically are below ground or surrounded by hedges.
When I arrived in Hannover I weighed my options and hoping that the station was in the center of the city headed for the main doors. As luck would have it…it was. I took special note of the time and path I took…then wandered the streets for a good hour. The town itself seemed pretty interesting. The cathedral had a very unique look. On one face of the tower it had a basic pentagram, on another it had a star of David and I assume on the other two faces (it was square) there were other different religious symbols.
After exploring the town by foot, I paused briefly to listen to an accordian player who was working as a street performer. The quality of his music was excellent and many of the songs he was playing were tangos. As I sat and listened I munched on a Dönner kebab – the turkish version of a gyro.
From there it was back onto the train and I was southern bound once again. During the train ride I passed several small castles, a number of beautiful little towns, and a lot of flooding. Apparently the rains have really done a number on the region (I was unaware) and as a result many of the rivers looked to be at max capacity or overflowing their banks. Not at a catastrophic level, but still enough to flood fields, and play havoc with local transport. Luckily, the railway is raised a good bit above the ground so the rain and flooding didn’t slow us at all.
My arrival in Frankfurt went well, my hostel was easy to spot… directly across the plaza in front of the main train station. As has been the case with a number of other hostels I’ve stayed in the place was on the edge of the red-light district. The doorway for it (reception was on the 3rd story) was sandwiched between a kebab shop and of all things a porn store-strip club. The place itself though is nice. It has a great common area where people mix and socialize which is always a really important part of the hostel atmosphere. It is especially important when trying to find people to socialize with and venture out on the town.
I unpacked, met a few of the guys in the room, and we all headed up top to grab a drink and get acquainted. It turned out that the hostel had a club crawl scheduled for later that night. We all decided to go for it hoping we’d meet more people and see some of the town’s better night life.
All said and done about 15 of us formed up and attended the Club tour. It ended up that we only went to 2 clubs and it was horribly done. One club was a huge sprawling mass with a number of different dance floors and themes, but a poor vibe. The people were not overly friendly and the crowd was odd. Afterwards we all noted that there had been a lot of brawlers looking for-trying to start a fight. Most were large german guys, covered in tatoos with ridiculous haircuts. A lot of them looked like remixed disasters from the early 90s…Buzzed designs sprawling out from their spike mohawk and all.
By about 1:30 I’d not only had enough of the club, but I had also lost the rest of the group. I spent a bit trying to track one or two down, but given how packed the club was quickly gave up and decided to try and catch the tram back to town. I vaguely remembered someone saying the tram stopped around 1:30…
I wandered outside, back to the tram stop and found a german girl waiting for it as well. She didn’t speak english but I managed to communicate and she showed me what I’d need to do to get my ticket etc. After waiting for a good 20 minutes (she was on the phone waiting but wandered off back and forth) I was starting to think the tram had stopped and was debating trying the bus, or a cab (the guy that had led the outing said it cost about 10 euro to get back) when two drunken german guys walked up, checked the train schedule and then looked a bit confused.
Luckily they both spoke decent English and collectively we decided to split the cab fare back to the main station (as luck had it they were headed as well). They led the charge and we found a cab back by the club. They negotiated with the driver a bit, we piled in and were off into town. The total cost ran me 4 Euro and a crazy few minutes as the taxi cab driver blasted through the city. During the ride I got to talking to the guys who were still eager to party and excited to chat with an American. When we got to the station they asked if I wanted to join them for a drink or two – which despite the late hour seemed like fun. From there for the next few hours we wandered from pub to pub as they closed before eventually getting a 4:30 2nd dinner at Burger King. I bid the guys farewell and started back toward the hostel.
Thats where things got a bit interesting, I made a wrong turn (We had gotten pretty deep into the city) while trying to take a shortcut and ended up overshooting the area I was familiar with. With the skyscrapers as markers I didn’t get super lost, but was definitely in new territory. Added to that, I started to get a bit anxious as I was walking alone in an area where the only people I saw were the security guards for the major business buildings. I approached one of them and he helped me get my bearings. Another 5 minute walk found me at the back side of the rail station thoroughly relieved. I mentally kicked myself for not being more careful…then slept like a baby.
Given the late night, I didn’t feel too terrible about a late morning as well. When I did drag myself out of bed I headed up stairs and relaxed a bit unwinding and chatting with one of the guys I’d met the night before and a old police force buddy he’d run into at the hostel that morning. We chatted until about 3 then they decided to go out for some food. I spent the rest of the day and that evening out with them socializing and poking around the town. All in all it was a pretty relaxing day.
Today I woke up, finished off the new Tolkien book and then met up with one of the guys from the hostel. We walked into downtown Frankfurt and explored a bit. The architecture here is fantastic and everything is very well kept in the old city. With the skyscrapers that dot the inner city it’s a neat mix of germanic architecture and modern industry. The old city is fairly small and sandwiched between newer construction – which does remove some of the historic feeling and makes the city feel large and modern. To a certain extent this is expected but I think it is a bit of a shame. Until today I’d spent a lot of time around the hostel, which due to it’s proximity to the redlight district, has a very different feel than the city proper. Up until today I didn’t overly care for Frankfurt, but after exploring – something i should have done when I first arrived – I have a very different opinion of the city. It’s still not my favorite, but I came to appreciate it more as I encountered its various aspects.
Tomorrow I meet up with my friend Amber and from here we head to Munich for a day. I’ll probably be out of communication as I explore the city and brave a small slice of the last weekend of Oktoberfest!